MINI take to the max with new drophead roadster
- 21 October 2012
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There was a time when Mini offered to variations – the bog standard two-door version we all know and love and the estate.
How things have changed?
Not only is the car pretty much unrecognisable form the founding blueprint – customers can have pretty much any style, size or model.
Included in the long line-up is the Convertible, Clubman, Clubvan, Hatch, Countryman and now the Pacman.
Throw into the mix John Cooper Works and special editions and you’ve pretty much got a marque in itself.
Yes, that’s exactly what BMW have done with this little icon.
Since taking over in 1994 the German car giant revolutionised the brand and turned it into a global success story.
Since rolling off the production line in 2001, the chunkier Bavarian beauty has gone from strength to strength.
The brand has become synonymous with build quality, drive and above all, fun.
Well the fun dial has just gone into over drive with the arrival of a wicked twosome – namely the Coupe and the Roadster.
The Coupe has received mixed reviews mainly for its back-to-front baseball cap-styled roof which makes an otherwise fine machine look like a petulant teenager.
The topless version – bizarrely named the Roadster not Coupe cabrio – has hit the design nail on the head.
Because the lid comes down the sleek two-seater takes on a life of its own and the more you look the more convinced I am that the concept was born as a Roadster and the Coupe was an after thought.
Based on the original chassis of the Convertible, the Roadster is slightly lower (20mm) giving it a much more aggressive stance.
The heavily raked A-pillars are tilted at extra 13 degrees to accommodate the lower canvas roof while the waistline is also raised to hem in the stepped rear end.
Inside Mini afficianados will feel at home with the signature over-sized speedo dominating the centre of the cabin and the rev counter nestled behind the matt black steering which looks and feels very Aston Martin-ish.
It’s wall-to-wall leather coupled with Piano black finish complimenting the chrome toggle switches.
The Cooper range including the S, SD and JCW, get sports seats as standard giving outstanding lateral support for tight cornering.
It’s a little more practical than your average roadster with a smidgen more luggage space.
It’s boasting 240 litres in the boot which also comes with a low sill for easy loading and a ski-hatch should you get the notion to go on the piste.
On board storage is limited with a couple of cup holders and a small ledge behind the seats for your phone and bits and pieces.
But don’t let that put you off as this car is all about the drive.
Under the hood of the Roadster beats the heart of a thoroughbred.
The line up includes four variations of the petrol 1.6 litre twin-scroll turbo charged unit banging out 122bhp (Cooper), 184 bhp (Cooper S) and the blistering John Cooper Works which produces an astounding 211bhp.
A diesel version (Cooper SD )is available with an out put of 143bhp, emissions of 118g/km (road tax of €160 per year) and returning 60mpg.
On test today is the runt of the litter which is no shrinking violet.
She’s a live little performer with oceans of poke and a rasp from behind that instantly brings a smile to your face.
The ride is firm but not as choppy as we expected and the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension ironed out any unwelcome road intrusion which are becoming more evident in Irish roads – especially secondary ones.
The electronically assisted steering is light which punters will like but drivers who demand lots of feedback through the wheel will find it far too unresponsive.
Still, you can throw her into the tightest of corners and it’ll hog the road like glue (thanks to the clever stability system which will compensate for any miscalculations).
And to make you feel like a seasoned rally drive the Roadster has a little spoiler which raises automatically to eradicate aerodynamic lift giving extra downforce should yo need to negotiate a chicane at 100mph.
Yes it may look uber cool but it has a habit of catching the sunlight causing a blind sopt in the rear view mirror.
This happened me on several occassions espeially on motorways when the you exceed 70kph and it deploys.
The only other gripe is with the semi-automatic roof which can be a tad confusing if like me you play around with things before reading the manual.
The semi bit means you have to manually unlock the lid before pressing a button and Hey Presto, it disappears into the rear.
Same applies on the way back when you have to seal it like the doors on a 737 aircraft.
Unlike the 737 the cabin is quite draughty and even on Autumnal days one needed the heatingon in the backround to stay comfortable.
The noise level is also up an octave as the canvass roof is not soundproofed at all.
So will it temp buyers away from the Mazda MX5?
It’s hard to tell such is the diversity of their customers but it will be a big lure for young professionals – especially women.
The Mini Roadster starts at €26,260.
UK prices start at 18,020